What Is a Credit Score Scale Range?

Definition & Examples of a Credit Score Scale Range

Young woman reading from smartphone with credit card in hand
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A credit score scale range represents the series of three-digit credit scores generated by a particular credit-scoring model.

Understand how a credit score range works and the different types of ranges to determine where you fall on a given range and how lenders might view you when you apply for a loan or another form of credit.

What Is a Credit Score Scale Range?

A credit score scale range indicates the scores produced by a specific credit-scoring model, from the lowest to the highest score. Scoring models are computer programs that crunch information in the credit reports detailing your borrowing record (containing your payment history and other data points) and generate a three-digit credit score.

These ranges are further split into sub-ranges designating the credit risk of borrowers whose scores fall into them. A typical credit score scale range is split into five ranges in ascending numerical order, with credit risk decreasing with each successive score sub-range.

How a Credit Score Scale Range Works

In school, work is often assigned a numerical grade that can fall anywhere from 0 to 100 based on the quality of the work. The higher the grade, the higher the quality of your work, and the better your academic performance. Credit scores follow a similar principle, except they grade your creditworthiness based on the borrowing activity in the credit reports on file with the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—usually on a credit score scale range of 300 to 850.

The higher your credit score is on a given credit score scale range, the less risky you appear to lenders as a borrower, the more creditworthy or likely you are to repay your loans, and the more likely you are to get approved for a loan and secure a favorable annual percentage rate (APR) and other terms that can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the life of a loan.

For example, based on national average interest rates as of July 2020, a borrower who works their way up from the "fair" to the "good" sub-range of the FICO scoring model (the most commonly used model) could reduce their APR on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage from 3.92% to 3.49%. That means that understanding where they fall on the credit score scale range and improving their score could save the borrower $8,757 in interest costs.

However, credit score sub-ranges can vary by scoring model, and different lenders and loans may consider different credit scores for approval. For example, a credit score of 661 falls into the "good" score range of the VantageScore model but only the "fair" range of the FICO scoring model. Moreover, a FICO score of 740 puts you in the "very good" score range of the FICO model, but such a range doesn't exist in the VantageScore model; your score would merely be considered "good."  That's why it's useful to focus on your score on the FICO credit score scale range but work on improving your overall credit by adopting behaviors generally deemed positive by most scoring models, such as making on-time payments on loans and credit cards and keeping your balances as low as possible.

Regardless of the scoring model used to calculate it, the higher your score is on the credit score scale range, the more likely you are to get approved for a loan in most cases.

Types of Credit Score Scale Ranges

There are two major credit-scoring models as well as lesser-used models, each designating different score ranges and sub-ranges and weighing the data points used to crunch your score in different ways:

  • FICO
  • VantageScore
  • FAKO and others

FICO Credit Score Scale Range

Most people are familiar with the FICO scoring model developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation. Base FICO scores (such as FICO 8 scores) range from 300 to 850 and are further divided into sub-ranges of "poor" (sometimes labeled "very poor"), "fair," "good," "very good," and "exceptional." Poor scores are well below the national average for consumers and are viewed by lenders as risky, whereas exceptional scores are well above average and are considered to be exceptionally low-risk. But FICO also has Auto Score and Bankcard score versions for the auto and credit card industry, respectively, and both scales range from 250 to 900.

You can purchase your FICO score by going to myFICO.com or get an approximation of your FICO score for free from bureaus like Experian or certain credit card issuers.

FICO scores are used in over 90% of lending decisions. But lenders may consider other scores and other factors besides your score in those decisions, such as your employment history and income.

VantageScore Credit Scale Range

The VantageScore credit score was developed by the three major credit bureaus. VantageScore 3.0, the latest score version, also uses a range of 300 to 850. But that range is broken down into sub-ranges of "very poor," "poor," "fair," "good," and "excellent," with individuals with an "excellent" score being the most creditworthy and those with poor scores being the least creditworthy. In addition, earlier versions of the VantageScore, such as VantageScore 2.0, range from 501 to 990.

Purchase your VantageScore from Experian or TransUnion or check it for free through websites such as LendingTree.com.

FAKO and Other Credit Score Scale Ranges

FAKO scores are credit scores issued by credit-monitoring companies and any other entities other than FICO. Even though the FAKO and FICO score ranges may appear to be the same, FAKO scores aren't official credit scores used by lenders, so they should only be used for educational purposes. In addition, banks and other lenders may use their own proprietary credit scores for lending decisions, with ranges that only they know.

If ordering a score, inquire as to whether it's an official score used by lenders if you're not sure, and be aware of the scoring model, version, and credit score scale range for the score you're ordering to give you perspective on what your score means. Most credit score providers give you details about your credit standing when you order your credit score to take the guesswork out of understanding your score.

Key Takeaways

  • A credit score scale range specifies the sequence of scores generated by a particular credit-scoring model.
  • Understanding where a borrower's credit score falls on a credit score scale range can help lenders assess the borrower's creditworthiness and the borrower understand their borrowing power.
  • The FICO and VantageScore scoring models are the most common, and generally range from 300 to 850, but educational and proprietary models also exist.